Connections lines and dots illustration

Boost your creative thinking by forming new associations in the mind


‘Associative Thinking’ is one of 30 techniques included in our PLAYBOOK, the free toolkit for creative thinkers.


Creativity is all about forming new connections in the mind. It’s about making associations between things which previously had nothing to do with each other.

Make connections


Associations are the result of simple repeatable processes and techniques. Here we present two of the best techniques, which over the years have shown to be effective in sparking inventive associations.


You can download the worksheet below.

Associative thinking diagram
Associative thinking worksheet
Metaphors & Similes diagram
Metaphors & Similes worksheet

For the best results, keep your mind open to ambiguity and possibilities with these approaches:

Associative thinking

Adaptation: take an existing solution to one problem and ask if it can be applied (or adapted) to a new or different problem.


Transfer: is similar to adaptation, but is more about transferring knowledge, technologies or materials from one field to another.


Combination: is simply the process of merging two (or more) concepts together into one: the labradoodle.


Analogy: is using one easily understood or known concept to explain and illustrate another.

Metaphors and similes

1- State the problem:

Use the characteristics of something similar to suggest new ideas.


2- What is it like?

Describe a problem using metaphors, for example. Select one metaphor and list its distinguishing characteristics.


4- Relate back:

Then, brainstorm how those characteristics might relate back to the original issue.


3- Describe features:

The trick is not being too rigid with how closely items relate. The purpose of the exercise is to stimulate unexpected or surprising possibilities.



The worksheet is included in our free PLAYBOOK, a collection of 30 of our favourite tools and techniques. Download them all now in the PLAYBOOK.


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